Chilterns bear­ing fruit again

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Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NEWS -

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Tmay be hard to be­lieve it now, but once upon a time the Chilterns was fa­mous for its cherry and prune or­chards. The rolling hills were cov­ered in thou­sands of acres in the early 20th cen­tury.

South Bucks in par­tic­u­lar was known for its cher­ries. Seer Green was a hub for traders who took their carts full off to London to sell, while peo­ple would flock to Prest­wood and Holmer Green for fruit pick­ing sea­son.

Lo­cal va­ri­eties sprung up like the Ayles­bury Prune or the Arthur Turner Ap­ple.

Lo­cal peo­ple would come out in full force in peak time – June and July – as did pro­fes­sional pick­ers from far flung coun­ties.

But in the 20th cen­tury the Chilterns could no longer com­pete with other ar­eas, like Kent and Here­ford­shire and fruit im­ported from the con­ti­nent.

The or­chards be­gan to de­cline and as a cherry tree’s typ­i­cal age is 120 years, they be­gan to die, leav­ing be­hind just a shadow of the Bucks’ fruit for­mer glory.

How­ever, this could all be about to change.

Many vil­lages and towns have re­cently planted their own com­mu­nity or­chards, pro­vid­ing a va­ri­ety of fruit.

In 2013, Che­sham cre­ated its own com­mu­nity or­chard next to Lown­des Park, with ap­ple, pear, cherry and plum trees, in­clud­ing Ayles­bury Prune to keep the Bucks va­ri­ety alive.

Chal­font St Peter has also planted mini or­chards, with peo­ple able to pick fruit for free. There are also plans to plant nut trees and to get peo­ple to plant fruit in their own gar­dens.

The Chiltern Open Air Mu­seum, in Chal­font St Giles, also got in on the act, plant­ing a new cherry or­chard us­ing lo­cal fruit va­ri­eties, in­clud­ing Frog­more Early Dan­gler and Doesn’t Split.

There are plans to get more peo­ple in­volved and even for peo­ple to start plant­ing fruit trees in their own gar­dens.

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